More and more mothers and fathers are setting aside their scrapbooking, journaling, and baby books in favor of Web logs, or blogs, outlining their parenting experiences.
She wasn’t into scrapbooking. She wasn’t into jotting down thoughts in fancy journals. She just wanted to find an easier way to document her three children’s lives. Her extended family lived in various locations around the country, and she was struggling with ways to keep them all updated on her kiddos’ exploits, their photos, and their foibles as well as hers.
So in late 2002, Mindy found her solution: She started a web log (known as a “blog”), an Internet-based personal journal of sorts, where she chronicles her life as a working mom of three kids, ranging in age from almost three to six. Visitors to her blog can chuckle at her anecdotes, like her dialogs with her six-year-old son (who has a keen taste for sushi, but once required clarification on whether a PB&J; sandwich could be considered a salad), her frantic search for the perfect Christmas gift (a spear for said six-year-old) and the ups and downs of motherhood (like trying to find a moment, when not refereeing between siblings, when she could apply mascara in peace). Or you can cry with Mindy about her difficulties regarding divorce, family relationships, and work.
Make Way for Bloggers
The Mommy Blog—whose tagline, “A quasi-rational thought sandwiched between T-Ball and Happy Hour,” features a boy in an old-fashioned red shorts jumper mixing martinis—reads like a sarcastic Bridget Jones-meets-real-life-motherhood in the USA, imbued with humor, love, and angst. The very personal site is popular, netting 120,000 hits between March and December 2004, peaking with 3,500 hits the day Mindy posted photos of her house. “It’s like therapy for me because I get to talk,” Mindy says. “I’m absolutely stunned at how much traffic [the site gets].”
Mindy is far from alone. Keeping a personal journal online, where everyone from your boss to your mother-in-law can read your one-liners or screeds on the daily inanities of parenthood circa the 21st century, is a trend that’s growing exponentially. More than eight million Internet users keep a blog, according to a poll released in January 2005 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. And the readership for these journals has also exploded. Some 32 million Americans counted themselves as blog readers in the Pew poll. Twenty-seven percent of Internet users indicated that they regularly view blogs, compared to just 17 percent who reported viewing blogs almost a year earlier, the poll said.
Bloggers opine about anything from politics (several political bloggers were featured in September 2004 by The New York Times Magazine as having a major impact on the presidential race), to media and sports. Mommy blogging—writing about your family and parenting—is blossoming, with parents squeezing their journaling time in between their children’s naps and school pick-up traffic jams or late at night. The 2004 Best of Blogs Award for personal online diaries even gave a nod to the burgeoning group of moms who blog, adding a special category for them. Mindy’s blog was a top finalist for the best overall blog.
Then there’s Melissa of Suburban Bliss (whose website’s tagline reads, “Birth Control Via the Written Word”), who was a finalist for the best mommy blog. Melissa, whose blog was named by The Detroit Free Press as among the Detroit-area journals with “serious buzz,” professes with shock that something, which initially drew about 15 readers, now gets upward of 2,500 hits a day.
Ask this mother of a preschooler and a six-year-old what makes her Web journal an interesting read and Melissa replies that recounting her family’s happenings with an ample helping of self-parody and levity helps other people relate to her blog. “I’ve always kind of felt really realistic about parenting, I would say, almost cynical,” she says. Melissa adds that her site exhibits all facets of being a mom, not just the happy, cute parts. “Everybody knows that you love your kids. It goes without saying. I am more interested in the other part of it.”
A recent visit to Suburban Bliss revealed a new tagline, “You’re still itching aren’t you?” featuring little bugs and bug tracks, a reference to her daughter’s three week battle with lice—”Lice Fest 2004″—which Melissa wrote about in minute detail, including photos of her daughter’s head covered in mayonnaise in an attempt to kill the bugs. “These are Lice of the Apocalypse and I am going to die before they ever die,” Melissa wrote in one post. “One-point-five hours of nit picking (literally) and her head is clear. I swear to God there are no more nits on her head. Please let this be the end. Please. Please. Please.” (Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t and the Lice Fest wore on.)
Warts and All
For a different twist on parenting, there’s always The Sarcastic Journalist. She was newly pregnant when she was fired from her job as a newspaper reporter after editors learned about the Web journal she’d been keeping which mentioned her workplace gripes. Now “SJ” is at home in Texas with her baby daughter Ellie and writes about their adventures several times a week.
Written with sometimes colorful profanity and off-beat observations, The Sarcastic Journalist’s take on motherhood is unique. “Sometimes you need to evaluate a friendship when you let said friend taste your breast milk flavored baby oatmeal,” she quipped in a recent one-liner she posted on The Sarcastic Journalist. Like Melissa from Suburban Bliss, SJ says she likes to write about motherhood—warts and all. Her site is honest, and people respect that, she says. “It has kept me sane I think,” adds SJ. “My sister when she had a baby said she was bored all the time. A lot of people say they feel bored or lonely. . . I can say stuff and it’s like a playgroup on the Internet.”
One topic that resonated with SJ’s readers was when she wrote about her bout with postpartum depression. She fielded many emails from moms who were concerned they were experiencing the same thing. SJ corresponded via email with many of them and said she was gratified to be able to help.
Julie Moos, a mom who not only keeps a personal blog, Mom in the Mirror, but also created and edits a site featuring short essays from mommy bloggers, DotMoms, said that mothers revealing the truth about their own experiences is empowering. “I’m most satisfied when I write something that is honest and interesting to read that others also find helpful,” Moos said in an email interview with BabyZone. “. . . I try to write about subjects that I think most people confront; sometimes they’re inane (what wall calendar my family’s going to use) and sometimes they’re very serious (my father’s death).”
When Good Blogging Goes Bad
All the moms interviewed for this story said that, at one point or another, they’ve experienced negative backlash because of their honesty, even though they all say they try to be somewhat discreet about what they post that may invade others’ privacy.
Melissa said that even though she tries not to use her blog as a marital weapon when she has an argument with her husband—she actually comments often about how great he is—she still receives email from people who assert that “I’m going to lose my husband because I’m ungrateful. And I’ve had people complain that I swear too much.”
Moos adds, “There have been a few readers who thought that I was a bad parent for various reasons and I always responded to them; sometimes I agreed, sometimes not. Either way, I was glad to hear their thoughts.”
Mindy at The Mommy Blog has received flak on occasion, including from some family members who don’t understand why she voluntarily makes personal issues public.
In the end, the mommy bloggers say they think that their children will look back upon their voluminous posts launched into the Internet galaxy and realize that not only did their mother adore them, but found the laughter and love in the everyday.
Moos said of her son potentially reading Mom in the Mirror posts in the future, “. . . I hope what he sees is how very important he is to me and how hard I tried to be a good mother to him.”
“It’s the ultimate baby book,” SJ said. Her daughter Ellie “can go back to the day I found out I was pregnant . . . She [can see] her mother as a person.”